September 17, 2019
Happening Now Now

Substitute teacher denies charges – Brattleboro Reformer

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By Susan Smallheer, Brattleboro Reformer

BRATTLEBORO — A former substitute teacher at Academy School in West Brattleboro has entered a not guilty plea to misdemeanor charges of prohibited conduct with several fourth grade students in April.

Ernest Simuro, 75, of Brattleboro did not appear in Brattleboro criminal court in person; his attorney, Cabot Teachout of Norwich, had earlier filed a waiver of appearance, which was accepted by Windham Superior Court Judge John Treadwell.

Simuro, according to an affidavit submitted by the Brattleboro Police Department, grabbed some male and female students by the neck on the morning of April 30, as the students were on their way to “All School Sing.” Other incidents occurred later in the day, with the students complaining that Simuro touched them improperly.

The students said Simuro grabbed a couple of the boys by the neck, and one girl said he also grabbed her by the neck, and then later touched her chest, according to the affidavit. A second girl also said Simuro touched her on the chest and made her uncomfortable.

One girl in particular said he grabbed her, causing her a lot of pain — 5 on a scale of 1 to 10.

Simuro told police he only treated the students like he treated his own children, and he said he had to “reel in” a couple of the boys. He denied grabbing the students by the neck, saying he “might have put his arm around a student in a friendly way.” He also denied touching the two female students’ chests.

Five students complained about Simuro’s behavior to the aide in the classroom, who in turn reported the students’ concerns to Assistant Principal Jonathan Sessions. Sessions reported the incident to Principal Kelly Dias, who talked to the students during lunchtime. She told police that Simuro was upset at first, but quickly calmed down. She also said he appeared “very confused.”

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According to the police affidavit, the students apparently knew about Simuro’s previous brushes with the police in Windsor, in 2010, when he was charged and then exonerated for sexual misconduct with a 7-year-old boy, who was in his custody. The Windsor County State’s Attorney’s office dropped the charges filed by the Windsor Police because of inconsistencies in their case, and the Vermont Department of Children and Families returned the child to Simuro’s care.

Simuro later successfully sued both the state and the town, receiving $400,000 from the state and $625,000 from the town’s insurance company, according to earlier reporting by the Valley News of West Lebanon, N.H.

The Academy School classroom aide, Amy Stevens, told police she overheard students in the lunch line, before Simuro was sent home by Dias, saying “he’s a pedophile” and that “he had a criminal record.” When Stevens asked the students who they were talking about, they identified Simuro and told her about their problems with him earlier in the day. It was not clear how the students learned of Simuro’s past history.

The affidavit revealed that it was a parent of one of the children who reported the incident to police, not school officials. The parent said he learned about the incident because of a letter sent home from Dias the day of the incidents which he found in his child’s backpack.

Police Detective Joshua Lynde, along with an investigator from the Department of Children and Families, interviewed the five children who complained about Simuro. The students said he “choked them, put his hands on their throat, pulled them from a seated position to standing by the back of their neck, touched the chest of girls in a way they felt was inappropriate.”

Simuro was released by the judge on the condition that he have no contact with the students in Anne Moore Odell’s classroom or their parents, and to stay away from Academy School, and not come within 300 feet of it, with the exception of “incidental vehicular travel.” The waiver request stated that Simuro’s lawyer would be on vacation on Aug. 20 and would be unable to attend the arraignment, and that no other lawyer from his law firm, DesMeules, Olmstead and Ostler of Norwich, was able to attend.

Contact Susan Smallheer at ssmallheer@reformer.com or at 802 254-2311, ext. 154.

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